SiteofWeek060910 An “unintended consequence” of the No Child Left Behind initiative has been a decrease in civics knowledge, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said May 26 in promoting an expanded version of a web site that uses computer games to put a fun spin on learning about government. The federal education program appropriated funds “based on good test scores in math, science, and reading,” she said, but it did not distribute money for history or civics. O¹Connor¹s new web site aims to right that wrong.

Launched on May 24, iCivics.org is a rebranded, expanded version of an earlier site called OurCourts.org. “Barely one-third of Americans can even name the three branches of government, much less say what they do,” O’Connor said. “… I’m worried.” Games on iCivics include “Do I Have A Right,” in which the player runs a virtual firm specializing in constitutional law; “Executive Command,” which offers a chance to play president; “Supreme Decision,” about the Supreme Court; “Branches of Power,” which gives the player control of all three branches of government; and “LawCraft,” in which the player is a member of Congress. The iCivics program is based at Georgetown University Law School. O’Connor is the project founder and leads the board of the nonprofit iCivics Inc., iCivics spokesman Jeffrey Curley said. The project began in 2007 and is in use at schools around the country.

The online role-playing games on iCivics are free, teacher-friendly, and effective–and kids like them so much in school that they play them at home, too, O’Connor said. http://www.icivics.org

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Jeff Festa